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The Turkish American National Leadership Conference – Empowering Turkish Americans, Washington DC, March 17-19, 2011 – Part 2, March 18, Fridaday

The second-day conference began with a presentation by Prof. Dr Justin McCharty, following brief opening statements by Gunay Evinch and Kaya Boztepe. The topic of McCarty’s presentation was, “The Turks in America: the Creation of an Enduring Prejudice”.

As usual, the presentation was lively with a lot of anecdotes and slide showing of caricatures of Turks from McCarthy’s new book with the same name, some dating back to 1890s, including an Editorial cartoon in the 1895 issue of the New York Times (Library of Congress Collection), the darling of Armenians who love to quote from that newspaper.

McCarthy began with an explanation on the reasons for writing about the Turk: “because what I saw around me and the complete lack of understanding of the Turkish issues,” he said, making reference to the New York Times reviews. McCarthy stated that if  15 books are presented on Turkey, all would be anti-Turkish, none with Turkish point of view.

Then he gave many examples of name-calling for the Turks, from Assassins to Barbarians with pictures of camels. Referring to the books and articles on Turks by foreigners, McCarthy listed 3 points used by the west as to why Turks killed the Armenians:

1. Religious hatred
2. Envy of the Armenians for their superior culture and wealth
3. Racially inferior people

Also referring to a description of a Turk in the 1895 issue of the New York Times, “A standing Disgrace to the Civilized World”, followed by stating that the bad image of the Turks in the West was created by the Missionaries and  “Americans saw nothing else except what missionaries wrote.”

Following the excellent presentation, several participants were allowed to ask questions. One lady asked as to what they should do to correct the bad image of the Turks, further asking if these were included in his book. McCarthy responded first by stating that he was expecting this question and put on a slide with the following points:

1. Educate Ourselves.
2. Educate Others
3. Admit Turks” Mistakes
4. Question falsehoods
5. Identify Bigotry for What it is.

Taking advantage of the 5 points on the slide, I asked a question also (after walking to the centre of the hall where the microphone was) and suggested that perhaps a 6th point could be included: Build Museums. Then I briefly told about yet another Chance Encounter with a dozen 8th-grade students visiting WDC on a class trip.

“As everyone must have seen, a lot of young students are at the Hyatt hotel. I asked them where they were from and what they were doing in WDC. They were 8th-grade students from a Middle School in Illinois and were on a class trip, all 180 of them with several teachers and parents. I asked to close to a dozen of them if they knew where Turkey was since they were also running around the Turkish American Conference hall. None of them knew. Then I asked one of their teachers the same question, who said she was a Special Education Teacher, and she said, “Somewhere near Poland.” I told her that all she has to do is to put her finger at the centre of the world on a map and that is where Turkey is.”

Then I suggested to Prof. McCarthy that establishment of Museums should also be included in the list. He pointed to Point No 2. “Educate others.” I said yes, but Museums should be emphasized.

Yuksel Oktay
To be Continued. End of Part 2.

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